Category Archives: Writing Tips

Citing a Book in MLA Style

When you are citing secondary resources in your work you need to make sure that you reference them properly. If you don’t know which referencing style you are using, go and check!

If you are using MLA referencing style to cite a book, this is how you will need to do it:

In-Text

(Author page number)

For example:

Some critics argue that here, Shakespeare is making a point about gender (Smith 72).

Note that for MLA style you don’t need to use a comma between the author and page number.

Reference List

Smith, J. What Shakespeare Meant to Say, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012. Print

Make sure you remember to put ‘print’ or ‘online’ after the reference.

Books by more than one author

If your source has got more than one author you would need to write your references like this:

In-Text

(Smith, Jones, and Hunter 87)

Reference List

Smith, J., Jones, A., Hunter, S. What Shakespeare Meant to Say, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012. Print

If your source has more than four authors then you can just put the first author and ‘et al.’ (which means ‘and others’):

In-Text

(Smith et al. 87)

For the reference list, you can choose whether to write the names of all the authors out in full or to put ‘et al.’ Your university can tell you what they prefer.

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How to Reference an E-book Using MLA Style

The Modern Language Association establishes that the basic format to cite e-books is similar to the printed versions; except for adding the medium of publication.

Consequently, the reference of an e-book will look like:

Surname, First name. Title. Place of publication (if known): Publisher, year. Database. Medium of publication. Date it was accessed (DD MM YYYY)

An example of how an ebook should be cited according to the MLA style is the following:

Edgell, S. The Sociology of Work: Continuity and Change in Paid and Unpaid Work. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2011. eBooks.com. Web. 15 February 2013

If the book is on an e-reader, the type of file should also be included and the reference will look like:

Leo, K., Hoggett, J. and Sweeting, J. Company Accounting. 9th ed. Australia: John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Google ebook.

Remember that your paper and references can be professionally checked at ProofreadMyEssay, so you can be sure of having high quality work.

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Prepositions- On, For

Here is a notice I saw in a shop near my house. So what is wrong with it? Sure, we can work out that fish in this shop is likely to be cheaper at the moment but, to a native English speaker, the image that springs to mind is of a fish out shopping and very pleased to find that they get a super good deal in this shop.

Prepositions

OK, time to get technical.

What exactly is the problem with this sign?

It’s all to do with preposition use. Here the shop owner has used ‘for’. This suggests that a fish will receive a special offer. In the same way, we might say:

‘I have a gift for you’

or

‘I’ll get a coffee for you’.

On

The preposition ‘on’ is used in many ways. In this sense, a special offer ‘on’ something, it indicates that the price of this item is lowered. You can remember that ‘on’ is used in this sense as price stickers are often stuck ‘on’ items. So, the sign should read:

Special Offer on Fish

The

The use of ‘the’ here is also not needed. This is a really common problem amongst people who use English as a second language. ‘The’ is a definite article and so is used to distinguish one particular item amongst many. If we wrote:

Special Offer on The Fish

We would be referring to a particular fish, rather than all the fish in the shop.

So here, we can just put ‘fish’ as we are referring to some fish, or all the fish in the shop.

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How To Include Long Quotes in Essays

We all know that the best way to quote in essays is to keep it short and snappy, right? If possible, you should include the quote inside your sentence:

Smith supports this point, stating that ‘readers generally get bored with long chunks of quoted text’.

However, there are going to be times when you feel you have to include a quote in full. Perhaps it has several points that you want to discuss. So how should you do this?

Style Guide

The first point of call is to check your style guide. Most universities use the Harvard guide, but APA, Chicago, and MLA are all common too. Most law essays will use OSCOLA. You should have a copy of this somewhere but if not, there is sure to be a version on your university website. Go and get it!

Got it? Good, let’s carry on.

Format for long quotes

Most style guides will tell you that for quotes of over fifty words, or four lines in length, you should indent the quote and use double quote marks. So, a quote would look something like this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Morbi ullamcorper ac diam at blandit. Pellentesque nec erat ut nibh vestibulum laoreet eget blandit felis. Aenean a turpis quis orci ultrices dapibus non semper nibh. Pellentesque fringilla sed est non imperdiet. Ut et facilisis diam. Vestibulum vitae malesuada diam, a condimentum nulla. Suspendisse auctor, odio et dapibus congue, orci est laoreet nisi, sit amet congue mauris ex vel libero. Fusce ut nulla et est luctus consequat. Donec ligula diam, congue non dictum ut, varius tincidunt orci. Donec scelerisque a tellus eu ornare. (Smith, 2010, p.45)

Some style guides will also recommend that the font in the quote should be a little smaller than usual, to distinguish the quote from the rest of the text. Some also say that you should leave out the quote marks. However you do it, make sure that you put in an author, date and page number at the end of the quote!

Good luck!

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The Oxford Comma

The Oxford comma, sometimes also called the serial comma, is used to clear up confusion in sentences with lists. It’s really up to you whether you use it or not but for academic texts it can be useful. I prefer to use it as it just makes sure that you are being clear.

Take the following popular example:

We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.

Now, without the Oxford comma, it looks as if you are saying that JFK and Stalin are the strippers!

So, we would write:

We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.

This makes it clear that JFK and Stalin have been invited as well as the strippers.

Not Always Necessary

It really depends on what you are writing though. Take this sentence:

We bought apples, mangos and bananas.

There’s really no danger of confusion in this sentence and so, if you like, you can leave out the comma before the final ‘and’ here.

Rejigging Your Sentence

You can also get around having to use the Oxford comma by simply restructuring your sentence. Our first sentence would be much clearer like this:

We invited JFK, Stalin and the strippers.

Conventions

Generally, British and Australian writers are less likely to use the Oxford comma and certain American newspaper outlets also leave it out. Certain style guides may suggest its use or not, so check this to make sure. The best thing to do is to always ask yourself ‘is my sentence clear?’ If not, you might want to stick in a comma.

Good luck!

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Writing a Draft

Easter is just around the corner and you are probably looking forward to the final write-up of your dissertation. Have you got a complete draft yet? How does it transform from this to a final, polished essay? Read on to find out!

What To Do With Your Draft

First things first, get the thing written! Don’t procrastinate for ages, just get on and start writing. Remember that you can always improve it and that your first draft is only ever going to be a rough sketch of the final essay. If you think that your first draft is all you are going to need- think again! The whole point of having plenty of time to complete your work is that you come back to your ideas, revising and refining them as you go along!

Process

Step One- Delete

Once you have a complete draft, go back over what you have written. First of all, look for any sentences that waffle or repeat something you have said before. Literally cross them out with a red pen. It’s honestly worth printing out your work as it can be hard to visualise the whole structure of a large piece of work on a computer.

Step Two- Rewrite

Look for ways in which things could be said more precisely. Try to be as concise as possible and make sure that each step of your argument flows on logically to the next. It can help to take notes on the structure of your argument as you go along.

Step Three- Check

Go through and make sure all your references are correctly formatted (see your University guidelines for this) and that everything you have mentioned in your essay is also featured in your reference list. It may be dull, but it’s a great way to pick up extra marks!

Step Four- Check Again!

Read your essay through several times on paper. Make notes and corrections as you go along. Try starting from the end and reading it backwards, a sentence at a time. The biggest cause of errors being missed is the writer being too familiar with the content. Reading your essay backwards can make it seem new again. This helps you to spot mistakes more easily.

Step Five- Check for the Final Time

Before submitting, make sure you get someone else to read it through. If you can’t rope in a friend, then why not submit it to a professional proofreader, who can give you the benefit of their experience?

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Using Acronyms

Often in academic writing, you will need to use an acronym. We often see these being used improperly, especially the first time they are used in an essay. So, how can you avoid using these incorrectly?

What is an Acronym?

An acronym is a word formed from the first letter or letters of an organisation or phrase, instead of its full name, for example ‘UNESCO’. People often think that if an acronym is very well known there is no need to explain it- in fact, many people would forget that an acronym as common as ‘UNESCO’ even stands for something in full. It’s almost as if very common acronyms take on the status of words. However, ‘UNESCO’ stands for ‘United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’ and you absolutely must explain this in an academic context. Although the acronym may be obvious to you, it may baffle others, especially if it is specific to your topic.

How to use Acronyms in Academic Writing

When writing an academic piece, you must assume that your audience will not understand any acronyms you use, even if they are well known ones. The first time you use it, you should write out the full phrase in brackets following the acronym, like so:

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)

You can then continue to refer to it as ‘UNESCO’ throughout your essay.

Make sure you check the first instance of the acronym!

A very common problem is the fact that many people edit and re-order their essays at the last minute. In doing so, you may overlook the fact that the first time your acronym is used hasn’t been explained. Use the ‘find’ function to look for the first instance of the acronym and make sure you have explained it.

Checklist

  • Make sure that your acronym has been explained the first time it is used
  • Use the find function to check that the explanation is matched with the first instance of the acronym
  • Send your work off for a final proofread before submitting it.

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